Friday, September 30, 2011


My View:  Moneyball (2011)   Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team, who, after losing in the playoffs, sees his team lose their biggest stars to the Red Sox and Yankees.   In a small Oakland market, Beane knows he can’t spend money like a New York team can and decides, with the help of a freshly graduated Economics major (played by Jonah Hill), to re-write the way a baseball team is put together.  Pitt is sound as the former major league player, now GM, but it’s the supporting cast of Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman (plays the A’s manager Art Howe) who make this a movie to watch.  Hill (before his recent weight loss) is brilliant as the man who seemingly has every baseball player’s stats in his head and develops computer programs to evaluate talent better than the A’s aging scouting staff.  My rating:  Full Price   Moneyball Website
Indyfest (A Look at a Small, Indie or Foreign Film): The Way  (2011)  Martin Sheen plays a father whose son has unexpectedly died in France while hiking.  Sheen travels to France to claim the body and discovers that his son, whom he had a strained relationship with, was in the process of walking the “Camino de Santiago,” a pilgrimage that has gone on for centuries - a trek that starts in France and ends near the coast in Spain.  Sheen decides to take his son’s ashes (Emilio Estevez, Sheen’s son in real life, plays the son in flashbacks) and deposit them at different stops along the way.  He encounters a number of fellow travelers and re-examines his life and his father/son relationship.  This is a picturesque film that, while not religious, does explore the spirituality of man.   My Rating:  Full Price   The Way Website
The 50 (a Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time)
#34 Best Film
Roxanne  (1987)   Steve Martin wrote and stars in this modern version of Cyrano de Bergerac.  Martin plays C.D., the local Fire Chief whose nose is so big that “when he wakes up in the morning, he smells the coffee…in Brazil.”  A new, very handsome firefighter (Rich Rossovich) is hired and is extremely shy around women.  A woman in town (Daryl Hannah) catches the new firefighter’s eye, and he enlists C.D. to help him court Roxanne.  The problem is that C.D. is also attracted to Roxanne but feels that no woman could ever fall for a man that looks like him.  Martin wrote this movie that has an incredible amount of creativity and charm.  Hannah is beautiful, as always, and Rossovich is splendid as a tongued-tied firefighter.   Roxanne Info
Forgotten Film:  The Cider House Rules  (1999)  This Academy Award winning film (Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor) was directed by Lasse Hallstrom (What’s Eating Gilbert GrapeChocolat).  Tobey Maguire plays Homer, an orphan who grows up in an orphanage run by a doctor (played by Michael Caine).  The doctor trains Homer to be an Obstetrician who helps him with the clandestine abortions that the doctor performs on the side.  Homer encounters Candy (played by Charlize Theron) who works nearby and comes to the orphanage for an abortion.  Though Homer tries several times to escape his life at the orphanage, it seems that he always returns.  The writing in this film is first-rate, and Michael Caine as the flawed doctor gives one of his better performances. The Cider House Rules Info 
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD):  Transformers:  Dark of the Moon  (2011) 
I didn’t really like this film. I thought it was too long in length, and it took so much time just to get to the action sequences, the movie wasn’t worth seeing all the way through.  Just skip to that last thirty minutes of the film to see the final battle sequence, and you won’t have missed anything. And I'll say it, I kind of missed Megan Fox. My Rating:  Cable   Transformers Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea) In Time  I don’t know what the heck it’s about, other than people in the future will be working for and paying with how long they will live.  Confused?  Me too.  Justin Timberlake stars with Amanda Seyfried and a lot of people I don’t recognize.  Never a good sign.   In Time Website

Weird Credits:  From the credits of The Way:  Handclaps

Flictionary (a Definition of a Film Term):  Leadman:  A person who is part of the Set Decoration department and who is responsible for the props.  A Leadman makes sure that the set is dressed properly, especially for continuity.

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  The Three Musketeers   The legendary swordsmen must reunite to defeat a beautiful double agent from seizing the French throne.  Milla Jovovich and Christoph Waltz make up some of this cast in what looks like a rip-roaring time.   The Three Musketeers Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, September 23, 2011


My ViewDrive (2011)  Ryan Gosling stars as a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for hire.  He gets involved with his next door neighbor (played by Carey Muligan) and because of her, he takes part in a heist that goes bad.  This is a very strange movie with lots of artsy shots, and then some very graphic violence, most of it performed by our hero with a backdrop of 80’s music.  Even the opening titles are reminiscent of 80's films like Beverly Hills Cop.  Gosling plays the driver who doesn't do a lot of talking, but he never hesitates if he has to fight back. Mulligan isn't given much to do; she mostly just looks cute.  And, the surprising Albert Brooks plays a crime boss who gets forced into the mix.  There are a few good car chases, but for a movie named Drive, it never really got moving.  My Rating:  Cable   Drive Website
Indyfest (A Look at a Small, Indie or Foreign Film)The Guard (2011)  Brendan Gleeson (Braveheart, Harry Potter movies) plays a local Irish policeman who is forced to work with an FBI agent (Don Cheadle) on a drug case.  To say that Gleeson is an unconventional police officer would be an understatement, as we see him taking drugs, hanging out with hookers and making gun deals with an old IRA acquaintance.  But, there is great play back and forth between the straight-laced FBI agent, Cheadle, and the Irishman.  This film, while a mystery (Gleeson's new partner gets murdered), has quite a few funny moments, and you really end up rooting for the odd couple to solve the crime.  My Rating:  Full Price   The Guard Website
The 50 (a movie from my best/worst films of all time)
#34 Worst Film
The Trial of Billy Jack (1974)  Everyone must pay for their sins, and apparently, the audience must pay for making the first Billy Jack film such a big hit.  In the sequel, Billy Jack is brought to trial for the crimes he committed in the first film. He is sentenced to four years in prison.  When released, Billy Jack finds that "the man" is trying to shut down his school of peace/love/equality.  Billy goes on a "vision quest,” more like a bad acid trip, and then goes out and kicks butt.  When the end of the film finally arrives, you will have wanted some of that acid.   The Trial of Billy Jack Info
Forgotten FilmDawn of the Dead (1978)  George A. Romero always wanted to go back to the theme of his first zombie movie, the 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead.  So, he created this movie where the zombie invasion is taking over the United States and the living humans are losing the battle.  Members of a TV station and a police swat team escape via a helicopter and land on one of the few buildings that hasn't been overrun by zombies, a shopping mall.  This movie has some scary moments and, typical of Romero's films, the heroes of the story have to make difficult choices to survive.  And, any fan of horror movies will enjoy the action sequences, especially the many unique ways zombies are killed, including death by helicopter blade.   Dawn of the Dead Info
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD):  Bridesmaids  (2011)  Kristen Wiig co-wrote and stars in this very funny comedy about a group of women serving as bridesmaids for Maya Rudolph's wedding.  While I liked Wiig and Rudolph, recent Emmy winner Melissa McCarthy is the reason to see this movie.  McCarthy plays the man-crazy but very butch sister of the groom.  McCarthy steals every scene she is in and is just flat out funny in this film.  My Rating: Full Price   Bridesmaids Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea)Jack and Jill  From the same team that has brought you Just Go with It and Grown Ups, this is a movie where Adam Sandler plays two parts, grown up twins.  Yes, you get to see Adam Sandler in drag.  Can Tom Cruise please get Katie Holmes a better agent and keep her out of stuff like this?   Jack and Jill Website

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Drive:  Biscuit Driver

Flictionary (a Definition of a Film Term):  Second Unit Director  During a film, the principal cast and crew shoot the main scenes while a second crew shoot scenes where the principal actors of the film are not needed, like establishing shots (example:  a shot of outside of building to show the audience where the next scene is taking place in) or close-ups of things like phones or car doors opening.  The director in charge of these shots is called the Second Unit Director.  Many directors got their start in films by being Second Unit Directors.

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:   Anonymous   What if William Shakespeare didn't write all his plays?  In this political thriller, Vanessa Redgrave plays Queen Elizabeth, whose reign is being threatened by a power struggle.  Her lover, played by Rhys Ifans, may be involved in the plot, and he may also be the real writer of the plays.   Anonymous Website
Until Next Time!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


My View:  Contagion   Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Lawrence Fishburne headline an all-star cast in this movie about a disease outbreak that starts killing people at an alarming rate with no cure in sight.  The heroes of this story are twofold:  the husband (played by Matt Damon) who loses his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) very early in the story and struggles to keep his family safe and alive and the doctors of the Center for Disease Control, who are trying to figure out what the disease is and how to treat it.  This is not a movie for the squeamish or the hypochondriac, as half the cast in this movie gets sick at some point.  Reminiscent of the all-star disaster movies of the 70’s (Airport, Poseidon Adventure), we become acquainted with many plots in this film, most of which are told very well.  Kate Winslet, as the onsite investigator on her first big case, and Jude Law, as a renegade blogger who feels the world is being lied to, stand out in this cast.  I enjoyed this film, but maybe because of the director, Steven Soderbergh. I came away wanting more from the story.   My Rating:  Bargain Matinee   Contagion Website
Indyfest (A look at a small, Indie or foreign film):  Bellflower (2011)   Two lifelong friends, Woodrow and Aiden, are getting ready for the apocalypse and build a flame thrower and a muscle car named, Medusa.  One night at a bar, Woodrow (Played by Evan Glodell) meets Milly (Jessie Wiseman).  On their first date, she warns Woodrow that they can’t become serious about each other because she will break his heart, and of course, throughout this strange tale, she does.  This is a film where, after you see it, you will still be trying to figure out just what happened.  Be warned.  There is lots of bad language, sex and violence in this movie, but I did like it.   What I enjoyed the most was that your opinion of many of the characters changes throughout the film.  My Rating:  Bargain Matinee   Bellflower Website
The 50(a movie from my best/worst films of all time)
#35 Best Film
The Lady Eve  (1941)   This is director/writer Preston Sturges at his very best with this screwball comedy starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda.  Stanwyck plays a con artist who, at the beginning of the movie, sets her sights on her next victim, Charles Pike, a shy explorer who is heir to a vast family fortune.  But Stanwyck doesn’t count on falling for the young adventurer, and after he discovers her plan, she must figure a way to get him back.  As with most screwball comedies, there are a lot of twists and turns, mistaken identities, plots that go wrong, and with most great comedies, interesting chemistry between the two leads.  Fonda is a joy to watch as he becomes putty in the hands of Stanwyck, while Stanwyck is so beautiful molding him.   The Lady Eve Info
Forgotten Film:  Peggy Sue Got Married  (1986)  Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and staring Kathleen Turner in her Academy Award nominated role as Peggy, a woman who is on the verge of a divorce and attends her high school reunion.  At the reunion, Peggy faints and wakes up back in 1960, her senior year of high school.  She realizes she has been given a chance to change her life.   Turner is superb in the role, and while the audience does have to suspend reality a bit to accept her in high school, she does an incredible job reliving her school years.  There are quite a few supporting players in this film who went on to become big stars, including Helen Hunt and a very young Jim Carrey, who plays a high school boyfriend.   Peggy Sue Got Married Info
In Case You Missed it ( A Film Just Released on DVD):  Thor (2011)  I thoroughly enjoyed this film when it was released in the theatres.  Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the God of Thunder is banished from his world by his father and is sent to Earth.  There he is found by a scientist (played by Natalie Portman), and Thor now must learn to live among the mortals.  The action sequences were first-rate, Chris Hemsworth is a worthy Thor, and there is lots of humor sprinkled throughout the film.  My Rating:   Full Price   Thor Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):  A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas   Sometimes I think Hollywood releases films just to make me wonder about their sanity.  Do we really need another Harold & Kumar film?   Where they have shot Santa?   In 3-D?  Why?  No, really, tell my WHY?   Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas Website

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Contagion:  Snowmaking Coordinator

Flictionary (a Definition of a Film Term):  Screwball Comedy:  Screwball Comedy is a term used to describe a comedy (mostly ones made in the 30’s and 40’s, but it can also be applied to some recent films) where there is a combination of slapstick, fast paced dialogue, quick romantic involvement, and very often mistaken identities.   The romantic leads are usually opposites, such as the shy man matched with the strong woman.  Good examples of the screwball comedy are It Happened One NightBringing Up BabySome Like it Hot and Sullivan’s Travels.

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  What’s Your Number?   Anna Faris plays a woman who decides to find the past men in her life and see if one is her true love.   I hope this film is worthy of the comedic talents of Anna Faris.    What's Your Number? Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Debt

My ViewThe Debt (2011) In 1966, three Israeli agents track down a Nazi war criminal in East Berlin. Their mission is successful, but at a price – a price that is revealed and haunts the agents thirty years later. This is an intriguing and exciting story that has many twists and turns, some I didn't expect. Helen Mirren plays the female agent in 1997 who has to relive the mission because her daughter writes a book about the operation. But, the main reason to see this film is Jessica Chastain (The Help) who plays Helen Mirren’s character in 1967. She lights up the screen as the Mossad agent who is on her first mission and has to survive in Communist East Berlin with her fellow agents who use their cunning and wit.  My Rating: Full Price   The Debt website
The 50 (a movie from my best/worst film of all time)
#35 Worst Film
Heaven’s Gate (1980) This is the movie that brought a studio to its knees. Fresh off his award-winning direction of The Deer Hunter, Untied Artists threw the bank at Michael Cimino to make a Western about the land wars of Wyoming. Sparing no expense, Cimino filmed probably the most accurate looking Western ever made, but also one of the most boring with a running time that exceeds four hours.  Christopher Walken plays a cowboy who looks like he has arrived on set without really learing his lines.  Kris Kristofferson plays his role as if he hasn't recovered from his hangover from shooting A Star Is Born, and Isabelle Huppert, as the love interest, has such a strong French accent you almost need subtitles to understand her. This movie is summed up by the pivotal scene that takes place in a roller rink…a roller rink!  Heaven's Gate Info
Forgotten FilmAngels & Insects  (1995)  William (played by Mark Rylance) is a naturalist in Victoria England  who has come back from exploring the Amazon after losing everything in a shipwreck. He is befriended by a rich, amateur insect collector, who hires him to catalog his vast collection with the help of the family governess (played by Kristin Scott Thomas). The shy William meets his benefactor's daughter (played by the lovely Patsy Kensit), a recent widow.  Much to his surprise, she shows interest in him, and they get married. But, all is not well in the household, and there are many secrets in this privileged world that William has married into. Don't think that this is your ordinary Victorian costume drama as there are some rather explicit sex scenes that caused quite a stir when the film was released in 1995.    Angels & Insects Info
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD): X-Men: First Class  This was one of the better films of the summer and certainly the best from the "comic book" films, including Captain America and Green Lantern (ugh). This is really a first-class story about the origins of the X-Men, both good and bad guys. The two things that mostly stood out for me were the performance by Jennifer Lawrence as Raven  (soon to be named Mystique) and the chemistry in the bro-mance between Charles Xavier (soon to be Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (soon to be Magneto). My Rating: Full Price   X-Men: First Class Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea)Paranormal Activity 3  This movie is a prequel to the first two Paranormal Activity films. Do we really need to see more scary things in the room under low light? Isn't that what the Sarah Jessica Parker movie is going to be?   Paranormal Activity 3 Website

Weird Credits: From the credits of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark: Creature Voices - Guillermo del Toro

Flictionary (a Definition of a Film Term) Grip: Grips are lighting and rigging technicians on a film. Their responsibility is to build the rigs to mount lights or cameras on.  Camera Grips help move the camera during a shot if a camera is mounted on a movable base, such as a dolly.

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Ides of March  Director/Actor George Clooney brings this political drama to the screen. Clooney plays the front runner candidate for President, and Ryan Gosling plays his hot shot media consultant. Gosling learns something about Clooney that makes him question  his candidate and the political system, itself. This film has a great supporting cast with Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei.   Ides of March Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, September 2, 2011


My View:  Colombiana  (2011)  After seeing her parents murdered in Columbia, a girl child is adopted by her uncle, and he, unexpectedly but lovingly, teaches her how to be a killer.  Zoe Saldana (Avatar) portrays the girl who has grown into an assassin for hire but has an ulterior motive: she is on the hunt to find who killed her parents and bring down the murderers.  In a gory film like this, an audience must believe a stoned-cold killer lurks behind the good looks of Zoe Saldana, but I could never accept Saldana as the elite killer.  The director, Olivier Megaton, uses the oldest trick in the book, a shaky camera with quick cuts and strobe lighting, in Saldana’s close quarter fights.  This is a sure sign the actor isn't very good at doing action sequences.  In fact, throughout this film, I kept thinking how action stars like Maggie Q (Priest) or Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) would have been much better in the role…women who are bad-ass and show it well.
My rating:  Cable   Colombiana Website
The 50 (a movie from my best/worst films of all time)
#36 Best Film
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)  Directed by Orson Welles, this film was to be a follow-up to his landmark film, Citizen Kane, but World War II began, and Welles was sent, on behalf of the American government, to produce a propaganda film to spread goodwill in South America.  When Welles departed South America after shooting Ambersons, he left behind extensive notes on how the film should be edited.  The studio, though, did not want another long film (like Citizen Kane) and made extreme cuts, deleting more than an hour of the length Welles had intended to release.  Editors also added a happy ending when the original, final scene didn't test well with audiences.  But, this is still a great film with incredible cinematography (by Stanley Cortez) and really strong performances, especially from Anne Baxter and Joseph Cotton. Cotton plays Eugene, a man who loses the woman he loves to a rival.  The couple gets married and have a son, George, who grows up to be a spoiled, overly-indulged brat.  When George's mother becomes a widower, Eugene comes back into the picture, but George and his aunt (played by Agnes Moorehead) do everything in their power to keep the couple apart.  This is an incredible film, and we can only wonder how much better it would have been if Welles had been allowed to  release the film as he had envisioned it.   The Magnificent Ambersons Info
Forgotten Film:  Little Big Man  (1970)  This film opens with 121 year old Jack Crabb (played by Dustin Hoffman), the oldest man alive, telling his life story to an historian.  We then see Jack's life, which begins with the death of his parents in an Indian attack, and Jack is taken to the Cheyenne village to become one of their own.  The rest of the movie depicts Jack's experiences, growing up and living in the West, at times with Indians and at other times among a cast of colorful characters.  The film mixes humor and tragedy and deals directly with the conflict between Indians and settlers, who are hell-bent on taking Indian land.  Hoffman is brilliant as Little Big Man, who tries to survive the rigors of the western land.  He encounters a number of historical figures in his adventures, including Wild Bill Hickcock and General George Armstrong Custer.  The actor, though, who steals this movie, is Chief Dan George, who plays the wise old man who adopts Little Big Man as his son.  George brings warmth and grace to a role that could have been a weak caricature with another actor's portrayal.   Little Big Man Info
In Case You Missed it (A Film Just Released on DVD):  Trollhunter (2011)  Shot in "Blair Witch" style, three college students make a documentary for school on bear-poaching in Norway.  The students follow a mysterious man who drives a strange truck, as they believe he is the poacher.  The students soon discover, though, that the man isn't hunting bears.  He's hunting trolls.  This film is funny and scary at times, but it's Otto Jespersen, in the role of the Troll-hunter, that makes this film so much fun to watch.  He has a worn, weathered appearance, and he describes his job of Troll-hunting almost as if he drives a truck for a living instead of hunting Trolls.  This film never takes itself too seriously, which makes it an enjoyable film to watch, especially if you like horror movies.  My Rating:  Bargain Matinee   Trollhunter Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea) I Don't Know How She Does It   Sarah Jessica Parker plays a finance executive who is trying to do it all:  have a great career, a good marriage and raise two kids.  But, she gets handed a new account and then, ugh... who cares?  A better title would have been, “I Don't Care How She Does It.”   I Don't Know How She Does It Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Colombiana:   Zoe Saldana's Acting Coach

Flictionary (a Definition of a Film Term):  Gaffer:  An electrician in charge of the lighting plan of a production.  This person makes sure that all the lighting needed for the day is in place, is setup correctly and is ready to go.  The Gaffer works closely with the Director of Photography to create the look of the film through lighting.

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Dolphin Tale   Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr. are cast in a film about a boy who befriends a dolphin that has lost her tail in a crab trap.  The boy inspires a group of townspeople to band together to create a prosthetic appendage for the dolphin.  The dolphin's story gets publicity and starts inspiring people with special needs.  Hey, hurt dolphins, Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd…count me in!   Dolphin Tale Website
Until Next Time!